Same Day, 1:00 P.M. (Student Dormitory ・ Manager Room) (Nasuhara-san’s Turn)

They decided to nurse me in three hour shifts. Using rock-paper-scissors, they decided the order was: Nasuhara-san, Ginbei, and Akiko. Until I recovered, one of them would be nursing me at all times, be it day or night. They didn’t care for their own sleep.

Well, I should be grateful…

Regardless of whether they were forcing it onto me, nursing was a difficult and serious job, and here three people had volunteered to do it. Dying alone was so common it was a social problem, so I wanted thank the heavens from the bottom of my heart for my luck. It was debatable whether everyone needed to be nursed, but giving patients attentive care would definitely put them at ease and facilitate recovery.

But… there was a problem here.

During each person’s timeslot, everyone else was prohibited from interfering in any way, shape, or form. This meant only one person at a time could be in the room with me. I was stuck in this room with my current nurse, and it was ensured that no one would interrupt us. There was no telling what might happen.

 

*

 

“Well then, Akkii. I’ll take good care of you, so please be at ease. I’ll rid you of whatever ailment you have at once.”

“…No, you’re not a doctor or a nurse. Isn’t it impossible to cure me instantly?”

First up was Nasuhara Anastasia.

She was my acquaintance, a talented woman with unyielding audacity and a beautiful face that seemed to come from fiction— and, more than anything, her ability points for general housework were devastatingly low. She was lethally inept for someone who managed a house, and with all due respect, out of all the girls in this dorm, she was least suited for nursing.

“Before that, let me something basic, silly as it may be.”

“What might it be?”

“Have you ever nursed anyone before?”

“Now, you are aware that that is quite rude of you.”

Nasuhara-san scoffed, her expression unchanging .

“I am perfectly competent at nursing. And for argument’s sake, anyone who has lived in modern society for 16 years would have experience in it, would they not?”

“That may be true, but I’m worried since you’re not good at cooking or cleaning.”

“That’s irrelevant. Although I am almost shockingly incompetent at housework, in nursing that is far from the case. Rather, I’m so talented that others wonder if I was blessed by the gods.”

“Hee, that’s unexpected. Doing house chores and nursing people are basic skills, and I thought they were pretty much the same thing. So you’re an exception, huh…”

It felt like someone just said that they were great at solving simultaneous equations even though they couldn’t do multiplication and division. Oh well, I guess things turn out that way sometimes. They do say that reality can be stranger than fiction.

“Well, either way, this sounds promising. I’m sorry for taking up your time, but I’ll be in your care.”

“Understood. Please tremble in awe at the formidable height of my medical prowess.”

“I’d like to ask something about that prowess.”

“Go ahead.”

“So who did you nurse, exactly? I’d guess it was your dad or mom, but…”

“No. I nursed my teddy bear, Jonathan.”

“WHO SAW THAT COMING—?!”

Lying on my bed, I was at my wits’ end.

This was Nasuhara-san, so when she said she was good at nursing, I had wondered if there was more than meets the eye. Like… she couldn’t possibly have counted nursing a non-living thing as experience, right?

“Akkii, quiet down. It is rather inappropriate of you to raise your voice.”

“Says the person who made me raise my voice in the first place!”

“It’s fine. I won’t deny that Jonathan was a teddy bear, but he certainly had a soul, and he was my friend. Nursing him gave me the same experience as nursing people, you know?”

“As if! More like experience for real bears.”

“By the way, not only did I nurse him, I also performed extensive surgeries. When a vicious dog left Jonathan steps away from the gates of heaven, I attended to him immediately. Thanks to my precise and efficient surgery, he escaped a gruesome death by a fraction of a second.”

“That’s not surgery, that’s sewing! Wait, how did you sew when you can’t even do household chores?!”

“By the way, the stuffing ended up dangling out from the wound I sewed up, you know? And it is quite possible that I interchanged his right arm and leg when I reattached them.”

“So if you think about it, the so-called surgery was a terrible failure anyway!”

“It’s fine. It’s not as if he died.”

“He was never alive to begin with!”

“In order to save his life, the treatment was crucial. If he bears a grudge for it, I will accept the blame without protest.”

“Look, I told you…! No, tsukkomi’ing any further won’t get me anywhere, so let’s stop that!”

“Would you like some water?”

“…If you would please.”

I sat up and accepted the cup Nasuhara-san presented.

Oh man, I should have known better, I did some flashy tsukkomi’ing, and now I’m panting. At this rate, my cold will get worse.

“Ehm, Nasuhara-san?”

“Yes?”

“Thanks for the water. I’d like to sleep and rest for now.”

“Oh? Of course. Please rest to your heart’s content. Sleep as if you were dead, and don’t worry. You’ll be fine even if you forget to breathe. Then you’ll be embraced by Hades, the god of the underworld in Greek mythology.”

“Why are those comparisons so dark… Well, it’s fine. Anyway, I’ll sleep. Good night.”

“Yeah. Good night.”

Confirming that Nasuhara-san with her pokerface was sitting beside me, and I closed my eyes.

My whole body felt heavy, my joints hurt like crazy, and it felt like there was a haze in my head.

When we checked my temperature not long ago, it was around 37 to 38 degrees. That was typical for a cold.

My heavy body and lack of vitality was irrefutable proof that I had overworked myself after all. But even so, in the corner of my mind I was alert, so I couldn’t fall asleep. I couldn’t help sighing at my inability to control my own body. That, too, was a malady of my crumbling physical condition. Oh boy, being sick was a real pain in the arse.

……

…………

“Akkii. Do you want me to do something, I wonder?”

Roughly five minutes had passed since I closed my eyes.

Suddenly, Nasuhara-san addressed me again.

“During my turn, I intend to use whatever method it takes to nurse you, be it fair or foul. I’m going to give you anything you desire, and I want you to speak without reservation.”

“Thank you, but I’m fine. I don’t want anything in specific right now.”

“Restraint is futile. Right, for example, would you like me to wipe off your sweat?”

“No, I’m fine. I haven’t even sweated that much.”

“Aren’t you hungry, I wonder?”

“Yeah… I’m fine for now.”

“Don’t even want to sate your hunger?”

“Yeah, I’m okay. But thanks. You’re being really considerate. Anyway, I’m going to try to sleep.”

“Understood. Good night.”

After Nasuhara-san nodded, I closed my eyes once again.

As I said before, I was confident that my body was strong. How could I let my body get chained to the bed like this? Everything that had been piling up lately must have taken a larger toll on me than I thought. It started with the exchange between the Takanomiyas, the Arisugawas, and so on and went on with moving residences and other things… Thinking about it now, haven’t I already done a lifetime’s worth of work?

Oh well.

I should be grateful I wasn’t stuck in bed back when I was much busier. I should use this chance to take it easy and recover. That way I can return to my work and studies completely refreshed. That sounds good, yep.

……

…………

“Akkii. Would you like me to do something?”

And then another five minutes had passed. Just as I had dozed off, Nasuhara-san repeated her question.

“…No. Nothing special.”

I blinked many times, but was still half asleep.

“Well, if I had to say, I would mention that I’d love to get some sleep.”

“Please don’t restrain yourself. Would you like me to wipe off your sweat, for instance?”

“No, I’m fine. There isn’t any sweat to wipe.”

“Then perhaps I should wipe your lower half?”

“…Why did you narrow it down from my entire body to my lower half?”

“So you do not presently require any service?”

“Yeah, something like that. But thanks for worrying about me.”

“You’re welcome. And good night.”

After smiling at the same old shameless Nasuhara-san, I pulled my blanket over my head again. But really. This kind of thing…

A month ago— actually, even less than that— I would never have thought that Nasuhara Anastasia would be nursing me like this. Especially not in this room, which was only supposed to be for my sister and me.

The odd relationships I’ve formed will always remind me that people can be brought together in mysterious ways. Accepting and skillfully handling those various encounters that befall us is a wise way to live, for regardless of whether the encounters are good or bad, they surely add spice to our lives.

……

…………

“Akkii. Would you like me to do something?”

It was the same line for the third time now.

“…Ehm. No, I don’t need anything in particular.”

“Humbleness may be a virtue of the Japanese, but considering your situation, I think you would do well to rely on others. If it’s something like wiping sweat, I’ll be glad to do it any time.”

“…Rather, is that the only thing you can do when it comes to nursing?”

“That is, of course, untrue.”

Nasuhara-san refuted me with no change in her expression.

And even though she said, ‘That is, of course, untrue’, she didn’t follow-up on it. She knelt by my futon without any change in posture. She was unexpectedly gazing into empty space, so I had no idea whether her eyes were focused on something.

…………?

As I had said many times already, Nasuhara Anastasia didn’t move most of the muscles in her face. She was eloquent, and she consistently maintained an appearance of calmness and self-possession — in the academy she was considered an ice goddess. Add in her beautiful face, and it’s no wonder people sort of considered her a deity. But… Something was off today.

Her jokes were the same as usual in our conversation just now, but I felt they were somewhat half-hearted. Contrary to her cool appearance, wasn’t she surprisingly bad at being quiet? Well, I couldn’t deny that she was a skilled speaker. But she let her mouth run off to her heart’s content whenever she was with student council members or at the dorm.

…………

Huh? Was that just a coincidence?

“Hey, Nasuhara-san?”

“What might it be?”

“At first glance you look as you usually do, but… by any chance, are you about to blow a fuse?”

“What are you babbling about, stuuupid?”

Nasuhara-san exaggeratedly shrugged.

“That’s absurd, right? How could I possibly be at a loss in this kind of situation? That’s an incredibly foolish misunderstanding. Rather, I’m totally composed. Supernormal like always and totally not nervous.”

“Yeah. You are about to, as I thought, huh?”

Putting aside that she was about to blow a fuse, she was shaking oddly too.

“That’s not true. I’m the same as usual. Normal operation.”

“Is that so? I don’t quite see that, though.”

“No, it’s true. It’s as unchanging as the velocity of our Earth’s rotation. Just like a bug is of no significance in a program with unparalleled accuracy, something as insignificant as this could not possibly affect me. When you claim that I’m about to ‘blow a fuse,’ you’re acting as thoughtless as a judge who mandated a death sentence without trial.”

“Yeah, I see. Sorry… By the way, you fixed the way you’re talking, but aren’t you going to fix the way you’re addressing yourself?[1]

“You must have misheard. I committed no error of personal address.”

“You see. That excuse still won’t do.”

“Whatever the case, I demand you submit evidence to back up your false views. What year and month did that happen? At what hour, minute, and second did I commit that kind of mistake?”

“Ah, ye, got it. Sorry for that just now.”

I apologized for the time being, but her attitude felt like a confession.

I was surprised. When she wasn’t making jokes, neither her expression nor her tone ever changed — that was the kind of person Nasuhara Anastasia was. Maybe she just can’t act normally in this type of situation?

Well, having a girl who can’t do chores nursing someone was like making an elementary student do calculus. To make matters worse, she was alone with me, so she had to nurse me by herself. She couldn’t rely on anyone else for help or advice, and she couldn’t do any research… It was like playing an away game, and in that case it wouldn’t be surprising if she acted differently from her usual self.

But in spite of that, she was still here.

“Hey, Nasuhara-san?”

“What might it be? If you’re thinking about investigating my character discrepancy further, you will have to bring the matter before a courtroom.”

“No. I wasn’t going to bring that up again.”

“Hmpf, I won’t fall for that. It’s a scheme to lull me into a false sense of security so I’ll say something careless. Then you’ll turn the tables on me and use it as evidence in court, no?”

“Nono. This isn’t big enough to hire a lawyer over.”

“Hmpf, such a shallow lie won’t work. Rather, I will firmly stand in the face of your cajolery—”

“Thank you, Nasuhara-san.”

From my futon, I smiled at the paranoid vice president.

“Even though you were about to have a meltdown from doing something you weren’t good at, you still tried to help me out. That’s kind of you, and just having you next to me makes a big difference. It’s reassuring. Anyway, thank you.”

“…………”

“But, you see, I don’t think this heavy atmosphere is a good thing, and I don’t think you should be moping around. Can you just be yourself? They say that ‘sickness and health start with the mind,’ and you agree with that, right?”

“…………”

How would she react? Nasuhara-san hadn’t moved for a while now… She was still kneeling, and her eyes were focused on the day after tomorrow or some other unfathomable place — anyway, she wasn’t reacting.

Ah. Or so I thought, but just then she turned away from me.

“Nasuhara-san?”

“The sun is unbearable today.”

With her back turned to me, Nasuhara-san fanned her neck with her hand.

“You can’t help feeling hot and dazzled with the sun this ferocious, right?”

“Really? It’s still May, and the weather feels just right to me.”

“Perhaps, but not If you have light eye and skin color like me. It wouldn’t be a problem if I had sunglasses on, but… Anyway, I’m sorry, but I had to reseat myself.”

“Sounds like, well, a big problem… By the way, Nasuhara-san?”

“What might it be?”

“For some reason your ears have been bright red for a while now.”

“…That must be an optical illusion. The lighting could very well be the explanation.”

Rebellious till the end… She could have just obediently accepted the praise I had gone out of my way to give.

But it’s alright. As I said a few moments ago, having her beside me was reassuring enough. I would’ve wanted her by my side even if she wasn’t doing anything. Although if she actually nursed me it would be more of a burden than a help.

I only met Nasuhara Anastasia two months ago, and objectively speaking, we had only chatted about general things, but I already considered her a close friend.

Yep. It’s a good thing.

I was lucky to have met someone like her in the short time since I transferred to St. Liliana. Mind you, it was my sister’s school, so me being admitted was almost a miracle. But it looks like I made the right choice in the end.

“——Hey, Akkii…”

And so, with her back still turned to me, Nasuhara-san suddenly said:

“I thought of something about nursing, and it has nothing to do with wiping off sweat.”

“Oh? Is that so?”

That was good news.

I was relying on Nasuhara-san for now, and I wanted my cold gone earlier, even if only by a second. I’d be thrilled if she had a way to speed up my recovery.

“That sounds good. Please, by all means.”

“Very well, since you’ve requested it.”

“So? What are you going to do exactly?”

Typical treatment would be, well, putting a cold towel on my forehead? And then letting me use her lap as a lap pillow while singing me a lullaby… No, that’s just for kids. It’d make more sense to make and feed me rice porridge. Or maybe some medicine?

Yeah.

When I thought about it, there were surprisingly few things you could do to nurse someone suffering from a cold. After all, patients only needed nutrition and rest——

“Right. First of all, I’d like you to close your eyes.”

I was lost in thought, and what Nasuhara-san said surprised me.

“Eh? Close my eyes? Why?”

“Even if you ask me why, I can only respond that it’s necessary.”

“…So basically, shut up and sleep? That’s… Well, it’s true I can only sleep since I’m bedridden with a cold.”

“It’s not that. You have to close your eyes even if you don’t sleep… Although I suppose it would be preferable that you slept.”

It was an order I couldn’t understand well.

I didn’t mind sleeping, and I would’ve done so even without her asking, but… I had already been trying to fall asleep for a while now.

“It’s a good luck charm, so to speak.”

Nasuhara-san spoke again.

“Incidentally, this procedure is irrational. It won’t work if you don’t believe in good luck charms. Listen obediently if you want it to work.”

So there was also that way, huh? It had gone out of fashion since present day science was more advanced, but turning to spiritualism and shamanism to cure illnesses wasn’t anything new. I didn’t believe in them at all, but I’d be grateful and do as Nasuhara-san said since she asked me to.

“Got it. Well then, I’m in your hands.”

“I’ll do my best. Well then, go ahead and close your eyes. Do not open them under any circumstances.”

I let my eyelids fall as she commanded. I had no complaints since I understood her reasons. Besides, resting like this was what I’d wanted all along.

Well then. What the heck was the charm Nasuhara-san wanted to give me?

“…*inhaling deeply*… *exhaling deeply*…”

When I strained my ears, I heard faint, repeated deep breathing. Was she trying to focus? If so, things were getting serious.

“…*inhaling deeply*… *exhaling deeply*…”

It was the deep breathing again. Sometimes long and deep, sometimes short and flat.

When I listened intently, it sounded as if there were repeated cycles of tension and relief in her breathing… Instead of trying to focus, it seemed as if she was struggling with indecisiveness. But there was no reason that giving me a charm for my cold would warrant such hesitation. Really, what was Nasuhara-san trying to do?

Several minutes passed. I was going a bit numb.

Her unsteady breathing was unchanged… Wouldn’t it be better to say something here?

“…Ehm.”

“Be quiet.”

What came back was refusal.

“I’ll correct myself. Don’t just close your eyes; close your mouth too. If you don’t, my tiny bit of courage will—— I mean, I’m taking great pains to concentrate, and you’re interrupting me. Be like a doll and don’t move.”

“Ah, okay, Well. If you say so, I will.”

“Don’t move.”

“Not even an inch?”

“But you’re permitted to breathe.”

“That’s… a given.”

Following that exchange, I obediently closed my mouth and stilled my body.

But with her being so evasive, what the heck was the charm she was going to pull out of her sleeve? It had to be an incredibly serious miracle charm. Or maybe she was just fooling around, and it’ll turn out to be a joke?

Hmm, both seemed possible. I couldn’t read Nasuhara-san’s mind; to me she was like a jack-in-the-box or a mystery chest. Or rather, was this posture alright? With my eyes shut and my body frozen, and with breathing being the only thing I was allowed to do, I was basically asleep, right? And since I had a cold from overworking myself, sleeping was also my only alternative. And, well, Nasuhara-san said herself that I should rest, right? As a patient, it was my job to rest up, but even so, was it really okay to sleep now? Nasuhara-san was going out of her way to give me a good luck charm. It’d be rude to sleep without asking for her permission. My parents were eccentric, but they still taught me the bare minimum of etiquette. I wanted to be courteous at least, and as their heir, I didn’t to bring shame to the Himenokouji Family. I also had to attend to my daily studies and——

……

………

…………

Ha—?!

Nonono. I was dozing off right after saying. If that happened, I wouldn’t be able to face Nasuhara-san. Even though she was doing her best to focus her mind and give me that good luck charm, if I fell asleep… There was a limit to how impolite I could be. Even though this situations screamed ‘please just sleep!’ I had to follow proper etiquette.

——While thinking about things like that, I opened my heavy eyelids. I saw Nasuhara-san’s figure.

Her position had vastly changed from moments ago, when she had her back to me and was further away.

Now she was right in front of my eyes and nose — I had been sleeping face up. I could count her eyelashes, and I could almost feel the moist breath from her lips on my skin — she was that close.

She had squeezed her eyes shut, and her shoulders were lightly shaking.

On top of that, what did she want to do? With her eyes shut at point blank range, she unsteadily hovered a bit in every direction — from my forehead over to my cheeks, and then back to my lips. While I thought that, she went ahead and came back to my forehead. A puzzling movement. It was as if she was dowsing my face on a treasure hunt or trying and failing to pick her next dish during dinner.

Actually, it was a curious movement.

As the aforementioned had taken me by surprise, I unthinkingly said the first thing that came to mind:

“Eh? What are you doing?”

“————?!”

Nasuhara-san opened her eyes wide in surprise, her shoulders trembled, and her movements stopped. No, I’m the one who should be surprised here, you know…

We stared at each other like that for a bit. Nasuhara-san had frozen up like a cat that had been caught red-handed snacking on some food. She slowly returned to her usual expressionless self.

“…I wonder what you’re doing, Akkii…”

“Eh—? What I’m…? That’s my line…”

“Even though I explicitly asked you to hold still with your eyes and mouth shut, why did you open your eyes and mouth, and on top of that, start moving too?”

“Ah— No, that’s, errr, how to put it? When you’re almost dozing off and then and you snap out of it all of a sudden. It’s pretty common. I had closed my eyes for a while, right? I nodded off before I knew it, and then…”

“So in other words, you’re implicitly criticizing my speed as slow. I wonder, are you trying to blame me by saying I should’ve been faster?”

“Nonono. Nothing like that, of course. I answered your question honestly, and there’s not really anything——”

“It seems you’re hard of hearing. In any case, this time you’re not even allowed to breathe.”

“Wait. Murder’s not the answer!”

“Hmpf. Then it seems the good luck charm has been ruined.”

Nasuhara-san said, separating herself from me and brushing her hair repeatedly.

By the way, she had short twin-tails, so there was little hair to brush up. And although she had returned to her expressionless and cool self, her face remained bright red.

“That extinguished what little courage I had — I mean, it permanently extinguished the energy from the universe or something that was required for the good luck charm. It is now impossible to proceed further.”

“Is that so… No, I’m sorry. It’s because I did something careless…”

“Jeez. I demand that you seriously reflect on your actions.”

“Sorry, sorry, I will… So, what were you trying to do? You drew near my face after having me specifically close my eyes. There was also those strange movements?”

“That’s… It doesn’t matter anymore. Arguing over lost possibilities is as useless as crying over spilt milk. I want to face the future optimistically, and someone as composed as I would not fuss over what could have been.”

After she said that, Nasuhara-san suddenly looked the other way.

“By the way, I’d like to confirm something…”

With her back to me, she continued:

“Obviously, I didn’t scheme to give you a good luck charm for your cold by kissing you after you closed your eyes. And I absolutely did not vacilitate between kissing your forehead, cheek, or lips. I also did not try to get revenge for accurate guesses earlier— please don’t misunderstand.”

“…Your explanation is oddly specific, huh?”

“It can’t be helped. People often form very specific misunderstandings.”

“Eeehm, so it’s like that? So it might have looked like you were trying to kiss me, but you were really just you trying to give me a good luck charm?”

“Of course. And also I’ll explain this just in case, but you should be aware I certainly did not consider kissing you and saying something conceited like ‘that’s the good luck charm.’ ”

I see.

Well, if she’s going that far, I can only believe her. I don’t know what she’d do to me if I didn’t.

But it was a pity. I had missed my chance of getting Nasuhara-san’s rare nursing/good luck charm. Even if I made a request, it felt like I had already missed the right timing… If I wanted another chance, I’d have to catch another cold.

Although, I didn’t intend on letting myself catch another cold, so there probably wouldn’t be a second chance.

…Yep, and you see…It was only my intuition, but Nasuhara-san’s nursing felt dangerous. This ending seemed to be better for various people. I guess I should be grateful. Yep.

 

Translator notes and references

[1]She’s jumping between her usual polite “watakushi” and the girly “atashi”.